Spaghetti alla chitarra is a typical Abruzzese pasta made with an egg dough and an implement called a "chitarra," the same word used for the musical instrument, the guitar. It's a multi-stringed rectangular wooden implement with metal wires across the top.
Before the invention of the chitarra in the mid-19th century, the same shape was achieved by cutting the pasta with a shoemaker's hammer called a rintrocilo. In some places in Abruzzo, the rintrocilo is still used, although now it's made expressly for pasta, not for shoes, and it looks like a grooved rolling pin. Centuries ago, the rintrocilo was made of iron, but today it's made out of soft wood like beech.
While I was in Santo Stefano di Sessanio, our writing group from Italy, In Other Words, got a first-hand demonstration on making spaghetti alla chitarra by Liliana Coceanig, who along with her husband Carmelio Fulgensi, runs the restaurant and agriturismo "Al Borgo."
Liliana made the dough with flour and eggs and rolled it out in rectangles, using a short rolling pin, in preparation for running it across the top of the chitarra. The pasta emerges at the bottom in long strands that are square shaped. She also demonstrated how she uses a large rolling pin for cutting tagliatelle or making ravioli. When she finishes rolling it out, the sheet of pasta covers nearly the whole table.
For the tagliatelle, after making the dough, she holds the opposite edges of finished sheet with her hands and rolls each side toward the center. It looks something like a jelly roll with a slit in the middle. She then slices it, lifts it from the center using a long knife as a guide and it unfurls into separate strands.
Liliana favors orange clogs, just like the well-known American chef Mario Batali.
Here are Liliana and her husband Carmelio, each with a different size rolling pin, or mattarello. Their son Silvan, whom I introduced you to on my last blog post featuring lentil salad, is a lentil grower and owner of a new bar in town called "Il Ristoro degli Elfi."
That night at dinner, we ate Liliana's spaghetti alla chitarra, plus a few other dishes she made, including ravioli with mushroom sauce.
And gnocchi too.
The meal started with a platter of homemade affettati (sliced cold meats) and a spicy eggplant and hot pepper spread.
The grilled smoked scamorza was excellent, better than anywhere else I've tried it.
Here's a video of Liliana making pasta for our group. Take a look at a real expert making the dough.
And check out her technique in rolling out the dough:
Now for the giveaway. Wouldn't you love to own one of those wooden implements to make your own spaghetti alla chitarra at home? I'm giving one away so you can try it yourself.
All you have to do is leave a comment stating your favorite pasta dish and sauce. Please don't leave your comment in my email - you need to leave it on the blog to be eligible. You don't need to have a blog, but I need some way to contact you if your name is chosen (by random number generator), so leave an email or home address please.
Spaghetti Alla Chitarra
printable recipe here
For the pasta, follow the step-by-step instructions and recipe here:
For the sauce - use your favorite or this one - a tradition sauce made with lamb and peppers from
Italy Dish by Dish:
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb lamb, cut into small pieces
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 lbs. peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. fresh marjoram leaves (substitute basil if you don't have it)
a pinch of hot pepper flakes
1/2 red pepper, cut into strips
1/2 yellow pepper, cut into strips
1/2 green pepper, cut into strips
grated pecorino cheese
Saute the onions and garlic in 1 1/2 T. olive oil, then add the lamb and brown. Add the wine, tomatoes, bay leaf, marjoram and hot pepper flakes and lower the heat. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Let the sauce cook while you make the pasta. After the sauce cooks about an hour, saute the peppers in the remaining olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the pasta in salted water, drain and toss with the peppers, then with the lamb ragu. Serve garnished with grated pecorino cheese.